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Review: ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’- An Admirable Attempt To Break The Mold

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George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing arrives with no sense of insecurity about just how bonkers it is. Not many filmmakers would be brave enough to tell a story ABOUT storytelling, where eighty percent of the run time was dedicated to two people sitting in a room recounting tragic stories from their tattered pasts. Let alone be able to turn such a film into something worth watching. But by God, George Miller did it. 

[Warning: Spoilers from George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing are below!]

George Miller never doesn’t go hard

Adapted from A.S. Byatt’s story, “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye,” 3,000 Years of Longing is obsessed with tearing down the ideas of what a story can be. This film has no preconception about what it needs to do, or what it needs to be, all while still managing to address the necessary cliches that a story like this brings.

Casually tossing unfathomably large concepts into play, the film doesn’t care to hold your hand and tell you where to look or how to feel. The movie floats between points in time, sometimes millennia in between, seamlessly. No matter how large or minuscule the story gets, fluctuating between the two constantly, the movie ends up with a feeling comparable to that of legends. 

Three Thousand Years of Longing’s Alithea

Tilda Swinton stars as Alithea, a woman who has imprisoned herself within her own world. Alithea is a narratologist, a studier of stories, who takes advantage of her incredibly secluded life by traveling across the world to study the stories of varying countries and cultures. In the case of Alithea, the title of the film doesn’t apply (or at least she claims as much).

three thousand years of longing
Tilda Swinton as Alithea. Three Thousand Years of Longing. (MGM)

Alithea longs for nothing. She thinks her profession grants her a higher intelligence. Even upon the grand introduction of Idris Elba’s character, aptly named “The Djinn,” she thinks herself to be properly informed on how to operate in the presence of such an intimidating being. But the introduction between the two is only the beginning of the story at hand.

The Djinn – the star of the show 

Idris Elba’s Djinn is not who Alithea expected him to be, and the two are more alike than she could’ve imagined. Both committed themselves to isolation in the name of love, and have been desperate to recapture that feeling ever since. The biggest difference between the two is just how honest they are with themselves. 

The Djinn is incredibly sincere, and as he tells the 3 stories about how he ended up spending thousands of years trapped, he refuses to lie about what led him there. He often found only himself to blame but was incredibly wary of making the same mistakes again.

How they come together in Three Thousand Years of Longing

Over the course of those 3 stories, a change within Alithea comes about. Just as one might expect within a story of legend, Alithea’s heart has drastically changed, with her finally realizing that a lonely life is not what she truly wants. This very moment is where the unique structure of 3,000 Years of Longing really begins to reveal itself.

three thousand years of longing Djinn
Idris Alba as The Djinn. Three Thousand Years of Longing. (MGM)

Although the previous stories told by The Djinn may give the film a tight sense of continuity and closure, the story doesn’t end once his stories do. In fact, I’d argue that the real story at hand doesn’t even begin until then. But that quickly becomes the “issue.” Alithea and The Djinn took a backseat while the stories of their past played out, and the way those stories often felt disconnected made the present story feel tacked on in the end.

The story blossoming

But the movie wastes no time and eventually finds its footing again. While a short period of adjustment was needed, largely due to a little bit of “are we really doing this” feeling of disbelief, the story settles in. I think if anything, it’s a shame that the final part of the story is dedicated so little of the run time when it really is one of the most compelling starts.

But in the grand scheme of the story, it’s just the conclusion. It’s not the only story at hand, and those previous stories were necessary to make those final moments work as well as they do. Those were the individual stories of The Djinn and the stories of Alithea, but that final portion is the beautiful story of the Djinn & Alithea. 

3,000 Years of Longing is an incredible journey, and George Miller cuts no corners. The visual style is incredible, the stories are relentless, and the characters are beautiful.

My Three Thousand Years of Longing film review rating:


3,000 Years of Longing is now in theaters. What did you think of 3,000 Years of Longing? Let us know in the comments or on social media! And if you haven’t already, check out my latest film review on Prime Video’s Samaritan!

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Tucker Watkins

I love movies and shows and things. I like to write about them. It is fun.

Tucker Watkins has 136 posts and counting. See all posts by Tucker Watkins